RNC will go after deadbeat driver dirty dozen

James
James McLeod
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

Province struggling to nab offenders who don’t pay

The provincial government is looking to draw up a dirty dozen list of deadbeat offenders when it comes to tens of thousands of dollars owed in traffic fines. But as long as you’re driving a car with out-of-province plates, don’t worry; the province has no way of tracking you down.

Traffic makes its way up Commonwealth Avenue in Mount Pearl. The RNC will help the province track down drivers who owe tens of thousands in fines starting in the fall.
— Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

Virginia English, director of fines administration for the provincial government, said hopefully by this fall, the police will be on the lookout for the worst of the worst — the people in the province who owe huge amounts for driving illegally.

Part of the problem with collecting fines from those drivers, English said, is that sometimes it’s just impossible to track them down.

She said that many of the serial offenders are people with no fixed address, no bank account, no easy way for the authorities to get in touch.

English was in the House of Assembly Wednesday morning alongside Heather Jacobs, assistant deputy minister in the Department of Justice.

The public accounts committee wanted to know what was being done to address massive outstanding fines — some people owe tens of thousands of dollars, and in total there’s around $33 million on the books owed to the province.

What the committee members heard was a raft of problems that prevent better enforcement.

For starters, if you’re driving a car with plates from another province, or from the U.S., you can speed, park illegally, and rack up traffic fines with impunity. Because the government doesn’t have reciprocal agreements with any other provinces, they can issue a ticket to you, but there’s absolutely no way of collecting it.

Also, because the computer system in the fines section can’t talk to the other computer systems, it limits the options available to punish deadbeat drivers.

Even if you owe tens of thousands of dollars, the government can’t easily deny you a moose licence, because the fines administration computer can’t talk to the wildlife division computer.

And when it comes to the serious repeat offenders, there’s the issue of finding them in the first place.

That’s where the RNC comes in. English said that this fall the police will be given a list of names as a pilot project, to hopefully track those people down. She said even if it’s just a matter of getting in touch with those people to establish that there’s zero chance they’ll ever get paid, then at least the government can just write off those debts.

One way that the government could likely increase enforcement is to hire more enforcement is to hire more enforcement officers.

Back in 2003, when the government was trying to save money to reduce the deficit, two enforcement officers were laid off. In that year, revenue from fines dropped by around $600,000 — which means that the government actually lost more money than it saved by laying off the enforcement officers.

“It’s being penny-wise but pound-foolish,” Liberal MHA Tom Osborne said. “Why those two individuals were laid off is beyond me. I think it was a bad decision.”

Justice Minister Terry French said they’ve replaced one of those positions, and hindsight is 20-20.

“However, I will tell you that when we formed government there was, like, one collection officer,” French said. “We took it from one to eight. We got into some tight times ourselves, and there was tough decisions that had to be made. We cut it back two, but we’ve since then put one position back.”

 

jmcleod@thetelegram.com Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: Department of Justice.The, 20-20

Geographic location: U.S.

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • bill@jim.com
    July 24, 2014 - 18:04

    Can't give em community service, that'll take work away from unionized community service workers. Next thing strikes, complaining, nasty news articles, arguing, and general aggrivation.

  • Rick
    July 24, 2014 - 17:56

    The big problem here falls at the feet of Gov't, especially the DMV!! We are one of the last remaining provinces issuing plates to the vehicle instead of the person!!! If you sell a car/truck you keep YOUR plate for the next vehicle you buy. The deadbeats won't have a plate to put on the cars they buy unless they steal it, then it will mean automatic jail time. It's time for the Gov't to get with the times and get tough with all the deadbeats.

  • JJB
    July 24, 2014 - 12:21

    Anyone they catch with huge fines, and they can't/won't pay....FORCE them into community servive, sweeping steets, picking garbage etc. Based on minimum wage, take the fine amount, divide it by the minimim wage and that would give you the amount of hours needed to pay of the fine. (IE: $10,000 divided by $11.25??, the looser would have to work 888 hours !!) IF you do the crime, you should do the fine!!!

  • guy incognito
    July 24, 2014 - 09:46

    "if it’s just a matter of getting in touch with those people to establish that there’s zero chance they’ll ever get paid, then at least the government can just write off those debts." Write off the debts? So they will just ask the people if they want to pay or not? Our government is beyond useless. Provincially and Municipally.

  • JEROME DELANEY
    July 24, 2014 - 09:13

    so, the low life's can do what they like, with no consequences , while us law abiding citizens have to pay. Government is very dysfunctional indeed.

  • shirley parsons
    July 24, 2014 - 09:03

    Why go after these deadbeats when you are never going to get the monies owed? This is a waste of time. The police should be concentrating on drivers who are talking/texting and driving These are the drivers that are putting everybody else on the road in jeopardy. Every time I drive I feel my life is on the line because of the pure stupidity of others.

  • Black Ink
    July 24, 2014 - 07:21

    "... the fines administration computer can’t talk to the wildlife division computer." Seriously, this is Govt. work ethic at its finest. If the computers cannot talk to each other, then why cannot the staff pick up the phone and talk to each other? How hard would it be to print off a document listing those who own fines in alphabetical order, walk it down the hall to the Moose License staff (among others) and request they thumb through the list before approving a license? Deny the license if you are on the list. Also, I disagree with writing off the fines of deadbeats, as it only gives them an incentive to keep on breaking the law.

    • Kim
      July 24, 2014 - 09:11

      Well I know that if you fly outside of the country Customs is darn quick to notify EI so they can claw back the EI payments while you were out of the country. How does that work if there is no communications between government departments?

    • Nichol
      July 24, 2014 - 09:20

      Agree totally. I also think this is just the tip of the iceberg of amazing bureaucratic inefficiencies that exist in our Government. Any contact I have ever had with a NL Government Department for any item that is the least bit out of the absolutely routine, is an experience generating frustration beyond belief. Employees are not empowered at all it seems, and you have to get at least to a Director level to get resolution of the most inane, obvious issues, if they are beyond a basic transaction. There is no doubt in my mind that this is a management issue, which badly needs to be addressed. I suspect that Heather Jacobs doesn't realize how badly her defensive list of excuses really looks, and she is an ADM!

    • Kim
      July 24, 2014 - 09:25

      Well I know that if you fly outside of the country Customs is darn quick to notify EI so they can claw back the EI payments while you were out of the country. How does that work if there is no communications between government departments?

  • Steve O'Brien
    July 24, 2014 - 06:42

    Well Ms. English just cured the problems of all those who owe fines. Her statement basically states that if they can't pay then the Govt. will have to write the fines off. what ever happened to jails and making people do public services.

  • Rick
    July 24, 2014 - 06:03

    I do not believe for one moment that some government computers can't "talk" to other government computers or if that's true that there's not some way to make it happen. Also, from what I know, NL is connected to all other provinces for MRD stuff, except Alberta. That's what I've always been told. If none of it is true, then why hasn't the government put something in place by now???

  • Kim
    July 24, 2014 - 05:12

    Just sit at any traffic lights in St. John's and have a look at the expired stickers on the license plates. I see at least 3 every day on my drive into work. Some vehicles haven't been registered in years. The police could just stand at the intersections and hand out tickets. As for the comment "government can just write off those debts". NO! At the least there should be community service (ie clean up the sides of the road, cut back brush, etc.)

    • Keith
      July 24, 2014 - 08:38

      That would require the RNC actually enforcing the rules of the road, something I've never seen happen in my years living in St. John's. Unless you're flying down the streets at warp speed, the boys and girls in blue are happy to let you do what you like on St. John's roads.